Copyright basics: Protect your online language learning resources

Illustration of an online pirate

Online learning opens up a world of opportunities for language teaching. Online language learning platforms like Sanako Connect platform are in fact an excellent tool for creating personalized learning paths for students, based on content that reflects the educational and creative effort of the individual language teacher.

It is clear, then, that teachers have much at stake in designing online courses and language learning resources. It must therefore be ensured that the original material is not copied or used without a license by third parties. In other words, it is necessary for language teachers to be aware of copyright protection measures to protect your online educational resources that you have created yourself using original material.


Creating your own online language learning resources is a land of opportunities… and threats

The proliferation of content sharing platforms, social media and E-learning sites have profoundly transformed the dimensions and possibilities of the creative industry. In fact, this evolution has made it possible for a global audience to benefit from an unprecedented amount of online language learning resources and content for example.

The cultural impact of this phenomenon is perfectly reflected in the economic growth of the E-learning market. Indeed, according to 2019 data:

E-Learning Market size surpassed USD 200 billion in 2019 and is anticipated to grow at over 8% CAGR between 2020 and 2026. The advent of several new technologies, such as cloud computing and AI […] will drive the market growth. Rapid cloud adoption provides flexibility in content storage, sharing, and access to both learners and content providers.

On the other hand, cyberspace is not only a virtual land of opportunity. In addition to the risks related to the security of personal data, a topic that we have analyzed before, there are risks related to the misappropriation of educational material distributed online.

According to data updated to 2020, “illegal downloading of copyrighted materials takes up 24% of the global bandwidth“.

These statistics also include online language leaning content. The educational content can be pirated in many different ways, from sharing among friends and relatives, to proper copyright infringement (i.e. original content is downloaded, slightly modified and resold under the name of a different author).

In the fluidity of cyberspace, it can be difficult to maintain constant control over your original language learning material. So let’s see how we can reduce the risk of our copyright being violated by cyberpirates.


What is copyright?

Copyright is a legal term indicating one of several types of intellectual property that are protected by law. In fact, it is necessary to distinguish the copyright from other types of property, such as the trademark or the logo of a brand.

The copyright protects original material that has been concretely produced. These two concepts imply that the material should be the expression of one’s creativity and that it should actually exist in some format (paper, audiovisual, etc.).

What warranties are derived from copyright? As Investopedia puts it:

Copyright is the right to copy. This means that the original creators of products and anyone they give authorization to are the only ones with the exclusive right to reproduce the work.

Therefore, copyright aims to protect the creative commitment and the economic gain of those who create original content, entrusting them with full ownership of the material created and with it the right to choose how others can use it.

The video below by Royce Kimmons helps teachers understand the basics of copyright, fair use, public domain, and open licensing.

YouTube player


Although this can be generally defined as the main purpose of copyright, one should also take into account that this type of legal matter is regulated differently from country to country.

While it is important to be informed about national copyright laws, there are antipiracy measures that can be adopted without necessarily having to become a legal expert.


Protecting the intellectual property of your online language courses and resources

The golden rule is to plan a strategy to protect your online language learning resources and courses before publishing them online. This will not eliminate the risk of piracy, but it will make it easier to react in case of misappropriation.

Tips to protect your online language teaching resources

Specifically, other measures that should be taken to protect your online language teaching materials are:

  • Register the copyright: formal copyright registration constitutes a public act of recognition of the ownership. Although in some contexts, for example in USA and the EU, copyright derives from the act of creation itself, registration is an additional protection for the creator.
  • Brand your content: Every time you publish educational materials online let everyone know who is behind the work. Make sure that your logo, your name, etc. are in the videos or handouts. The watermark is not only useful to consolidate your personal brand but also to assert your right of ownership.
  • Use plagiarism checkers: There are several tools, both free and paid, useful to check if the material you produced has been reused elsewhere illegally.
  • Use Terms of Agreement: Also known as Terms and Conditions, they constitute a legally binding agreement between the distributor of a service (in this case the teacher who creates the online course) and the user. The Terms of Agreements may illustrate user rights and responsibilities, privacy policy, expected usage and definition of misusage.

In conclusion, although you cannot completely eliminate the risk of piracy, planning basic measures to protect your online language teaching and learning materials will allow you to take advantage of the possibilities offered by E-learning in a more secure way.


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